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Poetry Unbound

159 EpisodesProduced by On Being StudiosWebsite

Delve into an immersive exploration of a single poem. Poetry Unbound is short and unhurried; contemplative and energizing — with a podcast, a book, a vibrant conversation on Substack, and occasional gatherings.Pádraig Ó Tuama greets you at the doorways of brilliant poems, and invites you to meet the… read more

159 Episodes | 2019 - 2023

BONUS: Truth-seeking and the Symphony of Language with Henri Cole

September 1st, 2023


A central duality appears in the work of Henri Cole: the revelation of emotional truths in concert with a “symphony of language” — often accompanied …

BONUS: Making Space for the Erotic with Aimee Nezhukumatathil

August 30th, 2023


Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s poems are filled with butchery and blood as she carves space for desire, motherhood, and an encyclopedic knowledge of plants to coexist in life and on the page. We are excited to offer this …

BONUS: Poetry That Pays Attention with Patricia Smith

August 28th, 2023


Through her poetry, Patricia Smith generously, skillfully puts language around what can be seen both in the present and deliberately looking back at …

Maya C. Popa — They Are Building a Hospital

July 28th, 2023


So much of what was once deemed impossible was found — during Covid — to be possible. Here, a poet watches a tent, a huge temporary hospital, be raised up on the green of Central Park, a place she’d previously walked …

Jenny Mitchell — A Man in Love with Plants

July 24th, 2023


How to remember a beloved who died tragically, violently? Remember the violence? Sometimes, yes. But also this: remember his love of flowers.

Jenny …

Vidyan Ravinthiran — Artist

July 21st, 2023


What self-consciousnesses do artists carry? It can be difficult to know how to hold onto confidence in your work, especially when small jibes from …

Mark Turcotte — Dear New Blood

July 17th, 2023


A poet reads to a room full of youths who seem to have some residual resentment to the poet. The poet doesn’t mind — he understands, and calls on the …

Wo Chan — the smiley barista remembers my name

July 14th, 2023


What do sandwiches, laundry, therapy, childhood homes, and forgiveness have to do with each other? Wo Chan weaves a poem that charts the many things …

Amanda Gunn — Ordinary Sugar

July 10th, 2023


A note from the Poetry Unbound team:
We’ve updated the audio for our episode “Amanda Gunn — Ordinary Sugar.” This updated version includes an additional stanza initially omitted from the recording and additional …

J. Estanislao Lopez — Alternate Ending: The Escape of Jephthah’s Daughter

July 7th, 2023


Old stories — of mythology or religion — have sometimes been depicted as having one narrative and one interpretation. Here, J. Estanislao Lopez takes …

BONUS: A Conversation with Sasha taqwšəblu LaPointe

July 3rd, 2023


We are delighted to offer this extended conversation between host Pádraig Ó Tuama and the poet Sasha taqʷšəblu LaPointe. Together, they take a deep dive into the story and language of her poem "Blue," featured in …

Sasha taqwšəblu LaPointe — Blue

July 3rd, 2023


In a poem that explores a story of a name, a story of a color, a story of a sound, a story of an identity, a the story of a person — we hear of …

Charif Shanahan — Present Moment

June 30th, 2023


On one particular day, a poem places events alongside each other, the ordinariness of each event casting the other events into light and shade.

Charif …

Brenda Cárdenas — This Is Why

June 26th, 2023


Why do we do the things we do when we’re young? Brenda Cárdenas recalls nights sneaking out of the house as a teenager, looking for highs, looking …

Nithy Kasa — Blouse

June 23rd, 2023


An item of clothing — the blouse of a grandmother — is praised for its artistry, is remembered for how it sits on the body. And then, having been lost, is remade, refined, and reimagined on a new body that recalls the …

Selina Nwulu — Replay

June 19th, 2023


What might have been? A poet recalls flirtations and electric connections that could have led to a different life.

Selina Nwulu is a writer of …

John Lee Clark — Self Portrait

June 16th, 2023


If you had to make a self portrait of your daily morning routine through language and sensation, what would you include? John Lee Clark offers …

Kay Ulanday Barrett — Pantoum for recital when my mom said, don’t let them see you cry

June 12th, 2023


A memory from childhood is viewed through the lens of the Malaysian poetic form of pantoum. New things emerge when lines break and reform with new …

dg nanouk okpik — In a Lock of Hair

June 9th, 2023


If you could put a lock of your hair under a microscope, what would it contain? DNA certainly, but here in dg nanouk okpik’s poem, the hair also …

On Poetry and Patronage: An Invitation to Love Us

June 7th, 2023


Pádraig reflects on the transformative force of poetry, and Krista joins with an invitation to pay tribute to the ongoing work of Poetry Unbound.

Make a gift and learn more at

Benjamin Gucciardi — The Rungs

June 5th, 2023


A social worker holds a group for teenagers at a school. They only half pay attention to him. Then something happens, and they pay attention to each …

Rowan Ricardo Phillips — Never Again Would Birds’ Song Be the Same

June 2nd, 2023


Have you ever had a private moment — perhaps in the middle of the night — in a large city? When it just seems like it’s you and the great dreaming …

Alexander Posey — The Dew and the Bird

May 29th, 2023


In a poem of strict rhymes and old forms, Alexander Posey (1873-1908), a poet of the Creek Nation, poses challenges to pomposity.

Alexander Posey was …

José Olivarez — No Time to Wait

May 26th, 2023


In a church there are liturgies and prayers and statues. But in José Olivarez’s poem, there are more urgent things taking place, things that have “no time to wait.”

José Olivarez is the son of Mexican immigrants.  He is …

Safia Elhillo — Ode to My Homegirls

May 22nd, 2023


Friendships deserve praise songs, and here’s a praise song — an ode — to friends that have crossed continents for each other, and would go further if …

Poetry Unbound — Season 7 Trailer

May 15th, 2023


Poetry Unbound with host Pádraig Ó Tuama is back on Monday, May 22. Featured poets in this season include Selina Nwulu, Wo Chan, Rowan Ricardo …

Ada Limón with Krista Tippett — “To Be Made Whole”

February 20th, 2023


Friends, we are awakening your Poetry Unbound feed for a moment to share this episode from the big, beautiful new season of On Being. And Pádraig’s …

BONUS: A conversation with Lorna Goodison – and the humans behind Poetry Unbound

December 22nd, 2022


As part of a celebratory launch party for the new Poetry Unbound book, Pádraig welcomed Lorna Goodison, former Poet Laureate of Jamaica, into a …

Danusha Laméris — Bonfire Opera

December 16th, 2022


A younger woman looks at an older woman, admiring her beauty, skill, and freedom. Older now, she thinks of how hard-won such freedom is. 

Also: …

Rumi — You wake the dead to life

December 12th, 2022


Who brings you to praise? Rumi’s great poem of praise to the “you” is to his great friend Shams, and through that friendship, to God.

Rumi was a 13th-century Muslim mystic and poet. He left behind a vast body of lyric …

Naomi Shihab Nye — I Feel Sorry for Jesus

December 9th, 2022


What’s it like to be owned by the world, to have populations claiming you, to have millions speaking on your behalf? Naomi Shihab Nye takes a close …

Victoria Adukwei Bulley — not quiet as in quiet but

December 5th, 2022


Quiet. Shhh. Softly. Don’t make a fuss. Don’t upset the authorities. Victoria Adukwei Bulley unquiets the quiet.

Victoria Adukwei Bulley is a poet, …

Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley — small talk or in my hand galaxies

December 2nd, 2022


On the day you wake to a broken window in your car, what do you do? And what happens when the woman repairing that window offers a glimpse of something new?

Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley belongs to the Onondaga Nation of …

Dan Vera — Norse Saga

November 28th, 2022


When you move to a new place, everything seems different. Hell’s not hot anymore; it’s freezing. A poem of strangeness and wonder. 

Dan Vera is a …

Solmaz Sharif — Self-Care

November 25th, 2022


Who decides what’s self care and what isn’t? Who benefits? Who pays? Upon whom does the burden of self care rest? Solmaz Sharif excavates.

Solmaz …

Dunya Mikhail — Eva Whose Shadow Is a Swan

November 21st, 2022


Some friendships are built on small encounters and last a lifetime. Two women — from across culture, location, and age — spend a lifetime in …

Aaron Caycedo-Kimura — What’s Kept Alive

November 18th, 2022


At the hingepoint of change, a poet walks through the garden his late father planted. 

Aaron Caycedo-Kimura is a writer and visual artist. He is the …

Kevin Goodan — We give…

November 14th, 2022


Firefighting pushes the body to breaking point; Kevin Goodan’s poem locates the “ash-dark art” of firefighting not just in the wilderness where the team worked, but in the muscles of the firefighters. 

Kevin Goodan was …

David Whyte — Leaving the Island

November 11th, 2022


Sometimes leaving feels like you’re splitting yourself in two, but you leave anyway. What compels us? What holds us together even as we look back? …

Andrés N. Ordorica — Mis raíces

November 7th, 2022


What is the landscape that has most influenced you? When do you go there? In person? Andrés N. Ordorica goes in dreams. 

Andrés N. Ordorica is a queer Latinx writer based in Edinburgh. His writing attempts to map the …

Laura Villareal — My Worries Have Worries

November 4th, 2022


If you were to use a metaphor for your worries, what metaphor would you turn to? Here, the worries have worry babies of their own. And they look back …

Stephanie Burt — Prayer for Werewolves

October 31st, 2022


The search for authentic love is a powerful hunger in humans and, as Stephanie Burt shares, in werewolves. 

Stephanie Burt is a poet, literary critic, …

Fiona Benson — Mama Cockroach, I Love You

October 28th, 2022


Do you experience disgust at the sight of certain insects? Which ones? Fiona Benson teaches us how to see. 

Fiona Benson is the author of several …

Saddiq Dzukogi — Learning about Constellations

October 24th, 2022


A man whose baby daughter has died turns to stars, mythology, and imagination for solace. There, he encounters what might help, a little. 

Saddiq …

Adam Zagajewski — Transformation

October 21st, 2022


What do you do when what sustains you no longer sustains you? A poet tries everything he can to reconnect with his art. 

Adam Zagajewski was a Polish …

Carolina Ebeid — Reading Celan in a Subway Station

October 17th, 2022


The sounds of a city can be overwhelming — but in the imagination of this poem, they are made into something new. 

Carolina Ebeid is a multimedia …

Molly Twomey — The Drop Off

October 14th, 2022


Asking for help is a thing of bravery. A poet describes her journey towards that help. 

Molly Twomey is a poet and editor from Lismore, County …

Hinemoana Baker — if i had to sing

October 10th, 2022


In the aftermath of disaster, how do you sing a song to mark what’s gone, and praise what’s growing? 

Hinemoana Baker is a writer and musician living in Berlin, Germany. Baker descends from the Ngāi Tahu tribe in the …

Jennifer Huang — Departure

October 7th, 2022


What’s a moment when you grew up? When you realized the help you get might not be the help you want? 

Jennifer Huang is the author of Return Flight, which was awarded the 2021 Ballard Spahr Prize for Poetry from Milkweed …

Gabeba Baderoon – The pen

October 3rd, 2022


After her father’s death, a poet considers her relationship with loss. 

Gabeba Baderoon is an Associate Professor of Women’s Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and African Studies at Penn State University and is the …

Michael Kleber-Diggs — Gloria Mundi

September 30th, 2022


Is there life after death? This poem says yes: where one life is part of a cycle of life that continues. 

Michael Kleber-Diggs is a poet, essayist, …

David Wagoner — Lost

September 26th, 2022


A person is lost, and in panic. A calm voice says strangely comforting things. 

David Wagoner is the author of 24 poetry collections and 10 novels. He …

Poetry Unbound — Season 6 Trailer

September 19th, 2022


Poetry Unbound with host Pádraig Ó Tuama is back on Monday, September 26. Featured poets in this season include Rumi, Fiona Benson, Michael …

Yu Xiuhua — Crossing Half of China to Sleep with You

June 3rd, 2022


How far would you go for great love? And what distances would you cross? 

Yu Xiuhua is a poet from Hengdian, in Hubei, China. She became well known in …

Andy Jackson — The change room

May 30th, 2022


When all eyes seem to lock on you, how do you cope with self-consciousness? How do you look back? 

Andy Jackson is a poet preoccupied with difference …

Tiana Clark — My Therapist Wants to Know about My Relationship to Work

May 27th, 2022


Life can feel exhausting sometimes: how do you find rest? 

Tiana Clark is the author of the poetry collection, I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without …

Joshua Bennett — Owed to Your Father’s Gold Chain

May 23rd, 2022


Sometimes when your world changes, it seems like everything turns towards you, fresh, new, and curious. 

Joshua Bennett is the author of The Sobbing …

Abigail Chabitnoy — If You’re Going to Look Like a Wolf They Have to Love You More Than They Fear You.

May 20th, 2022


How would you tell your own creation myth? Who — or what — would be in it? 

Abigail Chabitnoy is the author of How to Dress a Fish (Wesleyan 2019), …

M. Soledad Caballero — Someday I Will Visit Hawk Mountain

May 16th, 2022


In the face of wonder, we can sometimes lose ourselves. 

M. Soledad Caballero is Professor of English and chair of the Women’s Gender and Sexuality …

Rafiq Kathwari — Mother Writes to President Eisenhower

May 13th, 2022


Would you write a letter to a world leader? Do you think they’d listen? What would you say? 

Rafiq Kathwari is the first Kashmiri recipient of the …

Caroline Bird — Little Children

May 9th, 2022


Children’s demands can be high, and their standards can be exacting. It’s a good thing they’re loveable. 

Caroline Bird grew up in Leeds, the daughter …

Marilyn Nelson — The Truceless Wars

May 6th, 2022


What do we achieve in our fighting? How can we turn to hope and our deepest nature? 

Marilyn Nelson was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the daughter of a …

Richard Blanco — Looking for The Gulf Motel

May 2nd, 2022


Is something lost once it’s gone? How do we blend sadness with sweet memory? 

Richard Blanco practiced civil engineering for more than 20 years. He is now an associate professor of creative writing at his alma mater, …

Yusef Komunyakaa — Praising Dark Places

April 29th, 2022


Is the light a comfort and the night disturbing? Yusef Komunyakaa explores the life and brilliance of what’s in shadow and darkness.

Yusef Komunyakaa was born in Bogalusa, Louisiana. The son of a carpenter, Komunyakaa …

Hannah Emerson — Keep Yourself at the Beginning of the Beginning

April 25th, 2022


A poem inviting us to discover our brilliance and our nothingness. Both true. Both vital. 

Hannah Emerson is the author of The Kissing of Kissing. She is also the author of a chapbook, You Are Helping This Great Universe …

Kyle Carrero Lopez — Ode to the Crop Top

April 22nd, 2022


A song of praise to the crop-top from a crop-top-wearing man who encounters comments in public and sings and swings. 

Kyle Carrero Lopez was born to Cuban parents in northern New Jersey. He is the author of the chapbook

Divya Victor — First Petition

April 18th, 2022


A seven-year poem: from the start of the process to bring a mother to live in the US to the time she walks through the gate. 

Divya Victor is the author of Curb (Nightboat Books, winner of PEN America Open Book Award and …

Denise Low — Walking with My Delaware Grandfather

April 15th, 2022


We carry memory in our body: memories of our own selves, but memories of our forebears, too — talking with them as we walk, learning from them as they inquire. 

Denise Low is the former Kansas Poet Laureate, and an …

Rita Dove — Eurydice, Turning

April 11th, 2022


How do you speak with your mother when she’s forgotten who you are? By turning to myth, it seems, and by holding gentleness with bewilderment, love …

Poetry Unbound — Season 5 Trailer

April 4th, 2022


Poetry Unbound with host Pádraig Ó Tuama is back on Monday, April 11. Featured poets in this season include Rita Dove, Joshua Bennett, Tiana Clark, Yu Xiuhua, and many more. New episodes released every Monday and Friday …

BONUS: An Invitation from Pádraig and Krista

March 28th, 2022


While preparing for the next season of Poetry Unbound, host Pádraig Ó Tuama sat down with Krista Tippett for a conversation about the power of poetry to find us at the exact moment we need it. Pádraig and Krista also …

Danez Smith — i’m going back to Minnesota where sadness makes sense

December 17th, 2021


In a poem brimming with love and nostalgia for winter, a poet leaves California to return to their Minnesotan homeplace, a place where winter makes …

Craig Santos Perez — Rings of Fire

December 13th, 2021


What if the planet were as loved as a child? Taking the story of his daughter’s fever when she was one, Craig Santos Perez reflects on everything he …

Alberto Ríos — December Morning in the Desert

December 10th, 2021


Standing at the edge of a desert, surveying the stars on a December morning, the speaker in this poem observes the everything of everything. He is so small; the universe is so loud and so silent. Thinking about the …

Yehoshua November — 2AM, and the Rabbinical Students Stand in their Bathrobes

December 6th, 2021


Yeshiva students stand around in the middle of the night while firemen find the cause of the alarm. It’s a student — distressed by distressing news at home. The teachers cancel classes for the morning after. A poem can …

Aria Aber — The Only Cab Service of Farmington, Maine

December 3rd, 2021


In a taxi, a poet speaks to the driver. It’s the only taxi in town. He mentions travel, mentions Afghanistan, that he was there with the forces. She’s from Afghanistan and the conversation continues — awkward; …

Donika Kelly — In the Chapel of St. Mary’s

November 29th, 2021


Why do empty places sometimes lend themselves to reflection or contemplation? In this poem, a poet — describing herself as a nonbeliever — goes into a chapel to sit. In the corner there are some girls talking, there are …

Linda Hogan — Song for the Turtles of the Gulf

November 26th, 2021


In a poem called a “Song,” Linda Hogan crafts a song for turtles and other creatures killed through oil spills in the gulf. At once a praise song for …

Lory Bedikian — On the Way to Oshagan

November 22nd, 2021


The exile’s return to the motherland is the theme around which Lory Bedikian’s poem “On the Way to Oshagan” circles. She, a proud Armenian, stops by a roadside stall on a trip to her home country; and is immediately …

Nico Amador — Flower Wars

November 19th, 2021


Telling some of the story of the Flower Wars of the Aztec era, Nico Amador’s poem pits wars against creation. In a poem that begins by recalling …

Darrel Alejandro Holnes — Amending Wall

November 15th, 2021


In a poem that directly addresses Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall,” Darrel Alejandro Holnes asks questions: who gets to build walls, or guard borders?. …

Elizabeth Bishop — Sestina

November 12th, 2021


This sestina poem considers a scene from Elizabeth Bishop’s own childhood through the sounds of six repeating words: house, grandmother, child, stove, almanac, tears. These six words repeat — in different order — as the …

Major Jackson — Blunts

November 8th, 2021


Some friends gather and smoke at a doorway in a city. There’s Malik, and Johnny Cash, and Lefty, and Jësus. And the poet, Major Jackson. They’ve …

Andrés Cerpa — Seasonal without Spring: Autumn

November 5th, 2021


Andrés Cerpa recollects how his father’s early dementia was an increasing influence on his early years. As he grew, his father diminished. The burden …

Kaveh Akbar — How Prayer Works

November 1st, 2021


A narrative prose poem about two brothers — one on a visit home from college — who are turning to face east in their small shared room. With seven …

Gail McConnell — Worm

October 29th, 2021


In a poem that addresses a worm directly as “you,” Gail McConnell considers how these tube-shaped beings live: ingesting the earth, aerating it, digesting it, making its nourishment accessible for all kinds of growth. …

Romeo Oriogun — Pink Club

October 25th, 2021


A club is a place for dancing, for abandon, for music, and for meeting strangers. Romeo Oriogun recalls a gay club that was for all those things, but also for escape. Living in a place where queer lives were under …

Kathleen Flenniken — Married Love

October 22nd, 2021


In a poem of extraordinary poise, Kathleen Flenniken recounts her parents’ lively parties, their rich social life, their summer trips, and their friendships: friendships that were not always straightforward. The poem …

Imtiaz Dharker — Don’t Miss Out! Book Right Now for the Journey of a Lifetime!

October 18th, 2021


A love poem with a playful title that sounds like an ad from a travel agent unfolds into a poem about choosing to stay at home. Imtiaz Dharker’s …

No’u Revilla — Smoke Screen

October 15th, 2021


The life of a sugar worker is the center of this poem: a worker whose body and person bear the imprint of that industry, with its demands and smoke and exhaustion. The worker in question is the poet’s father, and No’u …

BONUS: A Conversation with No’u Revilla

October 15th, 2021


While preparing for this week’s episode of Poetry Unbound, host Pádraig Ó Tuama began an email correspondence with the poet, No‘u Revilla. The exchange was so rich that Pádraig asked No‘u to join him in conversation. …

Jake Skeets — Daybreak

October 11th, 2021


In a slight change to the normal format, host Pádraig Ó Tuama speaks with the poet Jake Skeets who reads his poem “Daybreak,” a poem combining Diné language with English, a poem rich with observation: of land, of …

Tishani Doshi — Species

October 8th, 2021


In a fantastical poem about the future, Tishani Doshi explores the present. She imagines a future where agriculture, forestry, and cultivation are …

Jason Allen-Paisant — Right now I’m Standing

October 4th, 2021


In a poem considering trees, Jason Allen-Paisant opens up many associations with trees: in a woodland, there’s a dead tree, from which new forms of life are finding sustenance. He, a Black man in the woods, is aware of …

Jacob Shores-Argüello — Make Believe

October 1st, 2021


In a short poem recalling a childhood response to grief, Jacob Shores-Argüello brings us into the fantasy world of a child: leaving an ill adult in a …

Margaret Atwood — All Bread

September 27th, 2021


In a poem of four stanzas, Margaret Atwood traces bread from its growth in bone-nurtured soil, to the warm ovens of baking, to the table, to the mouth of one person, then the hands of someone breaking bread for many. …

Poetry Unbound — Season 4 Trailer

September 20th, 2021


Poetry Unbound with host Pádraig Ó Tuama is back on Monday, September 27. Featured poets in this season include Margaret Atwood, Kaveh Akbar, Danez Smith, Tishani Doshi, and many more. New episodes released every Monday …

Katie Manning — What to Expect

June 18th, 2021


This poem stretches the word ‘expect’ into dozens of formulations. Proceeding alphabetically  through the index of the book, “What to Expect When …

Ilya Kaminsky — We Lived Happily during the War

June 14th, 2021


The opening poem to Ilya Kaminsky’s masterpiece, “Deaf Republic,” is written in the voice of someone who is confessing their complacency during a time of trial. There’s a war going on, but it doesn’t affect the person …

BONUS: A Conversation with Margaret Noodin

June 11th, 2021


After Margaret Noodin recited her poem, “Gimaazinibii'amoon” / “A Message to You,” for this week’s Poetry Unbound episode, she spoke with host, Pádraig Ó Tuama, about the story behind that poem as well as the …

Margaret Noodin — Gimaazinibii’amoon (A Message to You)

June 11th, 2021


A special bilingual poem in Anishinaabemowin and English by Margaret Noodin, a linguist who writes primarily in Anishinaabemowin. This poem of eight lines is filled with location —  the sweet sea, the curved shoreline — …

Martín Espada — After the Goose that Rose Like the God of Geese

June 7th, 2021


Bereavement brings all kinds of pressures. This poem by Martín Espada starts off with a grief-to-do-list: a phone call, a flight, a blizzard, cremations, shipments of ashes, memorial services. After all of this — in a …

Roshni Goyate — Coconut Oil

June 4th, 2021


In many ways this poem can be analyzed by how it ends: by examining the contents of organic shops. Roshni Goyate looks at one such item — coconut oil for hair —  and considers its long line of history in her …

b: william bearhart — When I Was in Las Vegas and Saw a Warhol Painting of Geronimo

May 31st, 2021


When looking at Andy Warhol’s painting of Geronimo —  a leader and medicine man of the Bedonkohe band of the Apache tribe —  b: william bearheart …

Esteban Rodríguez — 22 La Bota

May 28th, 2021


A poet considers his father, and, particularly, his father’s boots. These boots could be a hammer, a prop, a weapon. But Esteban Rodríguez also …

Reginald Dwayne Betts — Essay on Reentry

May 24th, 2021


This ‘Essay on Reentry’ charts life after prison: and the way that others keep your sentence alive even when you’re wishing to just get on with your own life. It’s about secrets and choice and disclosure. And in the …

Li-Young Lee — From Blossoms

May 21st, 2021


A poem about blossoms that is not only about blossoms. Li-Young Lee remembers a glorious day when he and a companion bought peaches; peaches that had come from blossoms. And in the taste of peaches, the brown paper bag …

Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo — Battlegrounds

May 17th, 2021


This poem takes place on battlegrounds. The poet — Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo — is at Gettysburg National Military Park, where she wanders around the …

Matthew Olzmann — Mountain Dew Commercial Disguised as a Love Poem

May 14th, 2021


In this love poem, Matthew Olzmann writes about his wife — the poet Vievee Francis whose poem for Matthew was featured in the previous episode — and the reasons why their marriage might work: her courage, her tenacity, …

Vievee Francis — How Delicious to Say It

May 10th, 2021


Building up in lists of delicious words — uvular, hibiscus, loquacious, shuttlecock, dollop, chipotles and chocolate — this poem uses sensual …

Eavan Boland — Eviction

May 7th, 2021


This poem offers critique into a moment of Irish history when Ireland, through independence, was rising to the light. But Irish women were facing lives as constricted in independence as under empire. Decades later, …

Jónína Kirton — Reconciliation

May 3rd, 2021


This poem starts off by describing how split the poet — Jónína Kirton — feels between two identities: having both Métis and Icelandic heritage. The …

Lorna Goodison — Reporting Back to Queen Isabella

April 30th, 2021


In Lorna Goodison’s imagined scene, Spain’s Queen Isabella receives the ‘report’ of the discovery of Xamaica from Christopher Columbus, an Italian …

Hanif Abdurraqib — When We Were 13, Jeff’s Father Left The Needle Down On A Journey Record Before Leaving The House One Morning And Never Coming Back

April 26th, 2021


Music works a kind of poetry in us. This poem is like a mix-tape of Hanif Abdurraqib’s memories, complete with a soundtrack that’s as roaring as it …

Poetry Unbound — Season 3 Trailer

April 19th, 2021


Poetry Unbound with host Pádraig Ó Tuama is back on Monday, April 26. Featured poets in this season include Hanif Abdurraqib, Vievee Francis, Ilya …

Christian Wiman — All My Friends Are Finding New Beliefs

December 18th, 2020


Who are the friends that, despite different paths chosen, have remained steadfast in your life?

In this poem Christian Wiman recalls the changing beliefs of his friends; this one has a new diet, this one has a new …

Carlos Andrés Gómez — Father

December 14th, 2020


How has becoming a parent — or being a caregiver — changed you? 

This is a poem of two halves. In the first half, a man questions God — how could a …

Ellen Bass — Bone of My Bone and Flesh of My Flesh

December 11th, 2020


What pet names have you been called? What are the circumstances and stories behind these pet names?

In this poem, a woman considers the pet names to give her female partner; “My beloved” isn’t very convenient when you’re …

R.A. Villanueva — Life Drawing

December 7th, 2020


Who do you trust with your body? 

In this poem, a man writes about his wife’s life-drawing class. She’s been sketching a naked male model for weeks, and the poet worries, comparing himself, trying to figure out how he …

Zaffar Kunial — The Word

December 4th, 2020


Have you ever projected your own awkwardness onto someone else? How did you do it? And how would you address them now? 

This poem recalls how, as a …

Dilruba Ahmed — Phase One

November 30th, 2020


What do you find hard to forgive in yourself? What might help? 

In this poem, the poet makes a list of all the things she holds against herself: …

Chen Chen — I Invite My Parents to a Dinner Party

November 23rd, 2020


In this poem, a son writes to his parents and invites them to a meal, letting them know that his boyfriend will also be there. He gives instruction …

Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill — Ceist na Teangan (The Language Issue)

November 20th, 2020


Are there languages that once were spoken in your family that are not anymore? What caused those changes? 

This poem considers the plight of a language, how it — like the child Moses in the biblical story of the Exodus — …

Aracelis Girmay — Consider the Hands that Write this Letter

November 16th, 2020


When you’re writing by hand, where is your other hand? What story is the space between your two hands — your dominant hand and non-dominant hand — telling?

This poem considers the posture of the body when writing: …

Tayi Tibble — Our Nan Lets Us Smoke Inside

November 13th, 2020


Who is in your chosen family? 

This poem considers the lines of loyalty in families and how particular memories, like a grandmother keeping “wishbones …

Paul Tran — The Cave

November 10th, 2020


What have you had to explore on your own? What, or who, helped? 

This poem explores the archetype of the cave — a cave that calls, a cave that contains secrets and perhaps even information. “Someone standing at the mouth …

Philip Metres — One Tree

November 6th, 2020


What do you notice about how you behave in times of conflict? Do you tend toward avoidance? Or compromise? Or collaboration? Or competition? Or …

Roger Robinson — A Portable Paradise

November 2nd, 2020


How do you hold onto hope? And who helped you find it? 

This poem is about holding onto paradise in the midst of an environment that seeks to steal or …

Seán Hewitt — Suibhne is wounded, and confesses

October 30th, 2020


In times of isolation, what stories have you turned to for comfort?  

This poem is an exploration of isolation as seen through the mythical Irish …

Meleika Gesa-Fatafehi — Say My Name

October 26th, 2020


What is the story of your name? 

In this poem, the poet calls on place, ancestors, and history to bear witness to the dignity of their name. They recall how their ancestors “acknowledged my roots grew in two / places” …

Lucille Clifton — song at midnight

October 23rd, 2020


In strength and defiance, Lucille Clifton celebrates her Black body and her survival. When have you said or heard words like this? 

Calling herself “both nonwhite and woman,” Lucille Clifton glories in her shape and fact …

Chris Abani — The New Religion

October 19th, 2020


How do you speak of — and to — your body? 

This is a poem dedicated to the body. “The body is a nation I have never known,” Chris Abani writes. Throughout the 21 lines of this work, he describes lungs, skin, bone, touch, …

Molly McCully Brown — Transubstantiation

October 16th, 2020


Are there places you've lived or visited that others would disregard? What do you see in them that others might miss?" 

This poem takes place at …

Natalie Diaz — Of Course She Looked Back

October 12th, 2020


Is there a character (from history, politics, or literature) whose story you want to tell from a new perspective? 

This poem is told from the point of …

Natasha Trethewey — Miscegenation

October 9th, 2020


Were you born during a time when laws were different? What impact did those laws have on you? 

In this poem, Natasha Trethewey recalls the story of how her parents crossed state lines to wed because Mississippi forbade …

James Wright — A Blessing

October 5th, 2020


Is there a moment of beauty you can recall that’s like a blessing for you?

This poem takes place at twilight in a field just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota, where the poet and a friend encounter two ponies who …

Gregory Pardlo — Wishing Well

October 2nd, 2020


What’s a chance encounter in a city that’s never left you? 

In this poem the speaker is asked a question by a stranger while standing near the water …

Ada Limón — Wonder Woman

September 28th, 2020


What stories or myths bring you strength?

This poem tells the story of a person living with invisible chronic pain who finds unexpected fortitude from a girl dressed as a superhero. Their encounter, “at the swell of the …

Poetry Unbound — Season 2 Trailer

September 14th, 2020


Poetry Unbound with host Pádraig Ó Tuama is back on Monday, Sept. 28. Featured poets in this season include Lucille Clifton, James Wright, Natasha …

Leanne O'Sullivan — Leaving Early

April 3rd, 2020


In Leanne O’Sullivan’s poem “Leaving Early,” the poet writes to her ill husband, entrusting him into the care of a nurse named Fionnuala. As the …

Help Shape the Next Season of Poetry Unbound

March 23rd, 2020


Poetry Unbound will be back with new episodes this fall. We’re so grateful to those who welcomed the podcast into their lives, and we’d love to hear …

Emily Dickinson — 1383

March 20th, 2020


Emily Dickinson’s poem “1383” honors the friendships that endure across time, circumstance, and even misunderstanding. Akin to fire, the connections in these friendships may be strong enough to burn or hurt us, but …

Raymond Antrobus — Miami Airport

March 16th, 2020


Raymond Antrobus’s poem “Miami Airport” bears witness to the disempowerment that comes when you’re not believed. The voice of the poet is absent, and all we hear is an interrogator seeking to disrupt and displace. This …

Patrick Kavanagh — The One

March 13th, 2020


Patrick Kavanagh’s poem “The One” is about seeing beauty in the ordinary places of home. One of Ireland’s most famous poets, Kavanagh grew up in rural County Monaghan and moved to Dublin as a young man. This poem …

Ali Cobby Eckermann — Kulila

March 9th, 2020


Ali Cobby Eckermann’s poem “Kulila” insists on remembering as a moral act. Through the poem, the Aboriginal poet mourns the loss of Indigenous …

Kei Miller — Book of Genesis

March 6th, 2020


Kei Miller’s poem “Book of Genesis” asks us to imagine a God who makes things spring into life specifically for us. Just as the poet of Genesis proclaims, “Let there be,” Miller wonders what freedom and flourishing we’d …

Lemn Sissay — Some Things I Like

March 2nd, 2020


Lemn Sissay’s poem “Some Things I Like” celebrates what we might consider discardable — like cold tea, ash trays, and even people. Raising a joyous …

Joy Harjo — Praise the Rain

February 28th, 2020


Joy Harjo’s poem “Praise the Rain” makes space to appreciate all the nuances of our lives. Echoing Rumi’s poem “The Guest House,” she asks us to be present to this moment — the crazy or the sad, the beginning or the end …

Ross Gay — Ode to Buttoning and Unbuttoning My Shirt

February 24th, 2020


Ross Gay’s poem “Ode to Buttoning and Unbuttoning My Shirt” uses an everyday task to examine what is made and unmade in small moments. He imagines his fingers opening and closing things, like buttons, the eyes of a dead …

Allison Funk — The Prodigal’s Mother Speaks to God

February 21st, 2020


Allison Funk’s poem “The Prodigal’s Mother Speaks to God” tells the age-old story of The Prodigal Son through a new voice: the unnamed woman of the …

Jane Mead — Substance Abuse Trial

February 17th, 2020


Jane Mead’s “Substance Abuse Trial” is set in a courtroom where a daughter hears her father’s name mispronounced at his trial. As she watches this, …

Ocean Vuong — Seventh Circle of Earth

February 14th, 2020


Ocean Vuong’s poem “Seventh Circle of Earth” is an homage to the love and intimacy shared by Michael Humphrey and Clayton Capshaw, a gay couple who were murdered in their home in Dallas, Texas. In the midst of …

Tracy K. Smith — Song

February 10th, 2020


Tracy K. Smith’s poem “Song” is filled with observations of a loved person: their habits, the things they do when they think nobody is watching. Love is shown and celebrated in observing the small practices of another.  

Marie Howe — My Mother’s Body

February 7th, 2020


Marie Howe’s poem “My Mother’s Body” is wise about age. In the poem, Marie’s mother is young enough to be Marie’s own daughter, and in this imagination there is wonder, understanding, and even forgiveness. 

A question to …

Faisal Mohyuddin — Prayer

February 3rd, 2020


Faisal Mohyuddin’s poem “Prayer” describes a practice of devotion. It’s a spacious and hospitable poem, filled with references to ritual and the …

Aimee Nezhukumatathil — On Listening to Your Teacher Take Attendance

January 31st, 2020


Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s poem “On Listening to Your Teacher Take Attendance” offers a way to ground yourself during vulnerable moments. The poet …

Welcome to Poetry Unbound

December 23rd, 2019


Poetry Unbound features an immersive exploration of a single poem, guided by Pádraig Ó Tuama. Short and unhurried; contemplative and energizing. Proudly produced by On Being Studios. Anchor your week with new episodes …

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